Slight majority of Germans favors Autobahn speed limits to cut emissions

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BERLIN — A of favor setting maximum for Germany’s famously fast Autobahns to help battle climate change, according to a poll published on Saturday.

Fifty-two percent of those polled wanted vehicle speeds limited to between 120 kph and 140 kph (75 mph and 87 mph), the poll conducted by the Emnid institute and published by Bild am Sonntag newspaper showed. Forty-six percent opposed such limits.

A government-appointed committee studying the future of transport is looking at ending the “no limits” sections on motorways as part of a broader proposal to help Germany meet European Union targets.

Not everyone is on board with the plans.

Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer, a conservative from Bavaria, the home state of carmakers Daimler and Audi, a unit of Volkswagen, said he opposed setting speed limits on Germany’s decades-old motorway network.

“The principle of freedom has proven itself. Whoever wants to drive 120 can drive 120, and those who want to go faster can do that too. Why this constant micromanagement?” he told the newspaper.

Scheuer said German highways were the safest in the world, and that imposing a speed limit would the country’s overall carbon emissions by less than 0.5 percent.

He said 7,640 km (4,747 miles) of German highways — about 30 percent of the total — already had speed limits, and that he plans to meet with the committee to discuss its proposals, which are to be finalized by the end of March.

“The goal is to think about the work they’re doing and to generate results, instead of revisiting old, rejected and unrealistic demands like speed limits,” he said.

Germany could be hit with heavy EU fines if it fails to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and poisonous nitrogen oxides. Transport emissions, which have not fallen since 1990, are a particular target for reductions.

The government is torn between the need to protect Germany’s crucial car industry, buffeted by a series of costly emissions cheating scandals in recent years, and the need to cut greenhouse gases to meet EU and domestic climate goals.

Imposing a motorway speed limit of 130 kph, fuel tax hikes, and quotas for electric and hybrid car sales, along with ending tax breaks for diesel cars, could generate half the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions that are needed, the committee said in a paper reported by Reuters this month.

The committee’s findings are to be incorporated into a climate change law the government wants to enact this year.

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